Sunday, April 27, 2014


Yesterday morning, the sun was just rising as I took the Mighty Dachshund out for a drain. The red eastern sky told me that nature had decided to go along with the weatherman. The first drops began to fall as we headed back to the north porch. I sat down in the swing and she took her usual position at my feet. The crisp brown leaves still surrounding my home rattled as each raindrop collided with the earth. It sounded like a cross between electrical static and a barely-audible drum-roll. It seemed the pooch was as mesmerized by the sound as I was.

The birds, singing heartily before the rain, continued as if nothing had changed. I could hear at least three different calls, but my recall has faded more than I realized from my decade-long absence from the woods. I DID recognize the call of a chewink from the timber west of the house and down the ridge a bit. It’s easy to know a bird that says its own name. I may have heard a cardinal, too, but I couldn’t be certain, since it wasn’t making the customary “pretty bird” call that I associate with them, and I couldn’t spot any red dots in the woods below the porch. I’m thinking the third call may have been a robin, but I can’t be sure. We always have one build in one of the oaks near the front of the house, but this one was hanging around in the brush where I couldn’t see it. A single crow called in the distance to the east side of the county road that passes in front of the house.

One of the neighborhood roosters to the north gave a single crow and I heard what sounded like a cowbell to the northwest. The latter sound brought back a flood of memories from my youth, when the area hills and valleys alive with the lowing of cattle. Most area farmers had small herds and only put bells on two cows—the one most likely to stay in the pasture, in hopes the others would stay with her—and the one most likely to get out, so she could be more easily found. The bell in the distance had a better ring to it than most cowbells, though, and I had to wonder if it was some neighbor’s single-gong wind-chime ringing in the breeze. I remembered that I have one of our old cowbells hanging on my wall in the hallway, complete with neck-strap and a small, rusty pipe elbow on a wire (used to replace the lost clapper many years ago).

This evening found me and the pooch sitting the same place we were yesterday morning. The sun was just setting and long shadows from the trees behind the house lay on the ground before us. The sky was reddish, but not overly so. The weatherman says it’s going to be sunny tomorrow and then rain the whole next week. Time will tell.

I didn’t hear the chewink this evening, but there was a blue-jay squawking its head off in the hollow below the porch. The “cowbell” was still to be heard in the distance, whatever it is. (There’s a pasture and a couple houses in that direction.) The evening breeze made an obvious sighing as it passed through the still bare, but greening, tree limbs. A dog barked in the distance, causing the Mighty Dachshund to give a barely audible growl. The birds which had been singing earlier started doing so with less volume, as if they were wearing down from a hard day. Surprisingly, the breeze seemed to bring the sound of an auto race. The track is nearly ten miles away as the crow flies, yet sometimes when the wind is right and the back door is open, we can hear it in the moments when the TV is silent. I didn’t think they’d started it up yet, though they’re saying they’re going to.  Only a few minutes after sitting down, as the pooch and I left the growing darkness and stepped into the house, I heard the whippoorwill in the hollow give his first call of the evening.

I sometimes forget how blessed I am to still have most of my hearing. © 2014


JaneofVirginia said...

Gorges, You are not only blessed with fine hearing, but with a mind and a temperament which allows you to take note of all that is around you, in man's world, and the natural world as well. I hope you and the dog enjoyed your moments outside.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

The sounds of the country, love it! My favorites are listening to the spring frogs, the barred owls and the train whistles.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, Jane; it's only by God's grace that I have it. I was probably nearly 30 before I started wearing ear plugs, and I'd already been brush-hogging and running a chainsaw for years by that time.

I enjoy those, too, Kathy. In fact, I heard a train before dawn this morning and we're probably at least a couple miles from the closest spur and double that to the main track. We're on a hilltop, though, so that helps.

Vicki said...

I find that now that I live in town instead of the country, it is the sounds I miss. Memories of the wolves howling or the eerie song of the loons on the lakes are what I remember most.

Gorges Smythe said...

I can certainly understand that, Vicki. I lived in town for four years and it has it's own sounds. I found them interesting, but I much prefer the country sounds.

kymber said...

Mr. Smythe - it gives me great pleasure to realize that my jambaloney and you must be cut from the same cloth. his grandmother taught him all about farming as well as how to recognize all of the different birds from their size, colour and shape, and most importantly, their sounds. he knows every moth, butterfly and bug as well. his grandfather taught him everything about fishing. and imagine, he was raised in the city. you can well understand that when i met him i sunk my claws in and will never let go.

all of that to say that i think you will enjoy this story that happened a few days ago. we were headed down to the river as it was such a nice day. jambaloney stops, listening, i ask "huh?'...he said "that sound is a bird of prey that i have never heard before". we wait a few more minutes, i hear it, too, but have no idea what bird of prey it is. he waits another few seconds and then says "oh crap. that's just those dead trees over there rubbing together" - bahahahahahah!

you, Sir, are probably only one of a few people who would appreciate his folly in thinking dead trees rubbing together was some new bird of prey that he had never heard before. i am not joking when i say that he knows every bird around our parts...and back in ottawa. he learned much from his grandparents and it makes me proud of him.

sorry for such a long comment. but i thought that you would enjoy the story.

your friend,

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks for commenting, kymber. Jambaloney was blessed to have such a grandmother. Your story just may have been the kick I needed to make a post that I've been meaning to make for ages! Watch for one entitled "in The Pines, In The Pines."